Lawrence Weiner (Bronx, USA, 1942) is one of the most influential artists in contemporary art practice, a sculptor of words who uses drawing, film or video to interact in a more personal way with the world around him. WRITTEN ON THE WIND, the exhibition held at MACBA until 24 June, showcases Weiner’s drawings for the first time. Avoiding a chronological approach, the exhibition instead puts forward an intimate perspective on the interests and obsessions of the artist as a form of privileged access to his work and his vision of the world.

This film cycle offers another facet of the work of Weiner, film, demonstrating his commitment to the execution of works of art and exploring the relationship between artist and public. To this end, we have selected films from the seventies to now, which, together with the animated drawings included in the exhibition, make up a comprehensive survey of his film production.

His first films from the seventies, most of which belong to the MACBA Collection, talk about the artist’s relationship with nature and explore the idea of subtraction in a natural environment. A First Quarter (1973) is the first film where Weiner works with the cinematic medium as such: an experimental exercise, heavily influenced by the techniques of the Nouvelle Vague, in which he reflects on the medium itself. This reflection remains somehow constant up to the last movie in the cycle (also the last film directed by Weiner), Dirty Eyes (2010), in which the language of film is interspersed with textual pieces, closer to his sculptural work.

Lawrence Weiner. WRITTEN ON THE WIND


THURSDAY 23 MAY 2013, AT 7.30 PM

To The Sea/On The Sea/From The Sea/At The Sea/Bordering The Sea
(1970, 50 s)
Every action, or work, is preceded by a text in white letters on a black screen. This text invites us to an action that exemplifies a relationship with nature where language is the protagonist. The sea is the only sound we hear.

(1970, 2.5 min)
The soundtrack begins with Weiner himself reading a number of conditions that amount to a Statement of Intent: ‘An artist may construct a work and/or a work may be fabricated and/or a work need not be built. I elected five possibilities for videotape.’ These possibilities are the conditions executed in the video.

Broken off
(1971, 1.5 min)
In this video Weiner states that a public work demonstrates what qualifies as art within his conception. Like Beached, it was also shot in a marshy area near the sea and in sequences separated by dissolves. One sees five different actions related to Broken Off. The artist breaks a tree branch, scrapes and kicks the ground with his foot, snaps a stick in two on a fence, scrapes a stone with his fingernail. At the end he pulls the line plug from the video, drawing attention to the mechanics of the medium.

To and Fro. Fro and To. And To and Fro. And Fro and To
(1972, 1 min)
Reportedly shot in the back office at Leo Castelli’s New York gallery, an ashtray is used to demonstrate five different actions related to artistic work. With the camera static, the video opens with the ashtray centre screen. A hand approaches from above and slides the object up and down, then back up and back down. Each time an act is completed, the hand retreats from the object, marking a separation from the next ‘possibility’. The actions (or movements) mimic language (e.g. ‘to and fro’) as it is spoken.

Shifted from the Side
(1972, 1 min)
Shifted From the Side is conceptually identical to To and Fro... and was probably made the same afternoon. The object used to demonstrate five possibilities of what could – but not necessarily should – be the artwork is a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. As in To and Fro..., the camera is static. The pack is on the right side of the screen; as the text is read, the pack is shifted back and forth. The hand retreats from the object each time an act is completed before sliding it from side to side across the table.

A First Quarter
(1973, 85 min)
Using the structure of a feature film as its basic format, A First Quarter adopts the principles of Nouvelle Vague cinema. Simultaneous realities, altered flashbacks, and plays on time and space, are all components of the form and content of this film. Because it was originally shot on video, then kinescoped to 16mm film, A First Quarter has acquired a softened, poetic look. The dialogue derives entirely from the creation of the work as it is spoken and read, built, enacted, written and painted by the players. As scenarios build, they appear as tropes, one after another.

Plowman’s Lunch
(1982, 28 min)
Plowman's Lunch is called a documentary because its intent was to explore actual occurrences – i.e., the building of the work and what befalls the players. It still uses an open form, but the characters are more developed; they have ‘names’, and some of the scenes were truly dangerous to produce. As in the other films (with the exception of Done To) there is a nucleus of three characters – two women (Boris and Jamiee) and one man (Steentje, a transvestite/hermaphrodite). The music, composed expressly for the piece, is harmonious in its developments. Cartoon-like framing and intense colour give the film a composed, painterly quality.

THURSDAY 30 MAY 2013, AT 7.30 PM

Hearts and Helicopters – The Trilogy: Eyes on the Prize
(1999, 46 min)
This is a trilogy made up of Eyes on the Prize (17 min), How Far is There (17 min) and With a Grain of Salt (16 min). A reflection on those moments when multiple realities concur and it becomes necessary to determine who owns ‘this place under the sun’ and where exactly it is located.

Dirty Eyes
(2010, 54 min)
Lawrence Weiner’s latest film, Dirty Eyes, probes cinematic conditions per se. In conjunction with the conceptual text pieces that typify his work, cinematic images transmute into questions about the specific conditions of looking and seeing.

Water in Milk Exists
(2008, 22 min 52 s. This film contains scenes of an explicit sexual nature)
Lawrence Weiner writes: ‘Situated within a landscape of human interaction those activities that lead to the construction of structures necessary to deal with or co-exist with the forces of nature, water in milk attempts to present various characters at a point of disjunctive but simultaneous realities. If the concise placement of stones leads to a structure (a truism posed by Mies van der Rohe) then perhaps a concise placement of persons can lead to a structure not based upon parallel hierarchies. The activities of the players fit within the genre of adult films. In fact, the players are adults.’

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Lawrence Weiner "Dirty Eyes", 2010 (film still)


Son[i]a #177. Soledad Gutiérrez on Lawrence Weiner
I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life
Jean-Michel Basquiat